Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Eve at the Potters

So, on Christmas Eve, we headed to Paul's family for the traditional German dinner and present opening with his family.

The tree at Paul Sr.'s house. 

Dinner. Weiners, smoked ham, potatoes, bread and sauerkraut. Why isn't that spelled "sourkraut"? Wouldn't that make life easier on everyone? In case anyone was curious, that's Renee, Paul's sister; Paul Sr., Paul's dad; Paul; Marty, Renee's husband.

Paul and I in our Santa hats! Damn. We are a handsome couple. Heh.

Paul Sr.'s dog Tipper. Tipper is a BIG girl. She gets a lot of treats.

Paul in all his Kris Kringle glory. The shirt he's wearing says "Get in Line Ladies". I can't control him at all. I actually let him go in public like that.

Sr. busted into his presents and got stuff he liked (I think). He's more the silent type.

Paul got this shirt for his sister. It says "Nice Rack". She laughed pretty hard, so I think it entertained her.

Paul opening some stuff from his brother. They sent some goofy alien parachute thingees. No, I don't know why, but they were entertaining to us simple people.

See, we are entertained.

Apparently, I was a very good girl this year and Santa got me a tiller. Who knew that Santa liked me so much. This is really for "Paul and I", but to be honest, he won't use it. But he'll have fun watching me use it, so it's really a win-win for us all.

The drive home Christmas Day was not exciting, so I decided to take some photos. Here's Toby slammed into a small space (largely because Brody feels the need to occupy the majority of the back). You can see how small and cute he is.

And very, very tired.

Here's the goofball I married. He's nothing if not funny.

And here's ol' gray beard, Brody girl. She's poking out on the far side of the back. Yet her body is spread over a large amount of the back, leaving Toby as little room as possible. And she can. Cause she's a badass.

On the way home, there was a lake that had a shit-ton of ducks. I tried to get it while we were moving, but it's hard to tell that all those little specks are ducks. But I promise that they are. I wouldn't lie to you. Often. About much.
That was Christmas Eve and Day. We're supposed to be heading to Nebraska to have our Christmas with my side of the family, but we may have to postpone if the weather decides to get really crappy. The main issue is that it's supposed to be nasty pretty much the entire trip.

Notice the snow band that's heading our way. It's going to nail I-29. Sweet. We're basically in limbo while waiting to see what's going to happen. St. Joseph about 45 min north of us is supposed to get so bad that traveling will be "impossible". We'll see!

Anyway, hope you all had a warm, Merry Christmas!


Just wait...

If you've lived in the Midwest, I'm sure you've heard the ol' adage of "don't like the weather? Wait a day." No shit. We are the epitome of this. Yesterday, it was 65 degrees. The day after Christmas. No really. That picture below has not been doctored or edited in anyway. On Christmas morning, it was 28 degrees and we watched the temperature creep up. By the time we went to bed, it was 44 degrees. Then, yesterday it did that. Heh.

Now, there are slight ramifications to these types of temperature swings in December. We got a really nasty thunderstorm with lots and lots of wind last night. I've already fixed it, but all the furniture on our front porch was moved around and our fence was tilting a bit. There is a broken post that will have to be replaced. So, guess you don't get the love with a slap in the face.

And now, today, less than 12 hours later, it has swung down again and is pounding us with freezing rain. Note the temperature. Awesome. Seriously. Awesome. The wind was so bad last night, both Paul and I were woken up by things slamming into the windows. Haven't heard yet what the actual miles per hour were, but I'm going to take a guess and say it was "Holy Shit" miles per hour or perhaps even "Watch out Mabel, the trees gonna crush our house" miles per hour.

Told ya.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This cracks me up to no end. I swiped it off a website and may be subject to prosecution, but I'm willing to take that risk to share the joy that is Santa going balls-out on a reindeer.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Soup Recipes

So, just to make everyone out there jealous. Check out the temp. Yeah. that's some cold shit. And the outdoor temp indicator is away from the wind. It's stupid cold. As in, your fingers may fall off if you walk outside. Just wanted to let you have that little reminder of what hell is like out here in the Midwest. Luckily, this photo was taken a few days ago. It's now a balmy, warm 34 degrees. WooHoo! Heat wave!

Onward ho! I channeled the spirit of Julia Child (without the spy stuff) and wanted to give out a recipe that I was trying. I made ham the other day and was already sick of it, so found a recipe for Ham and Potato soup on the internet. Yes, so I was at work. What of it? Everyone else was gone for the day so screw it. I thought I would keep track as I cooked so you all could experience the joy that is me and my kitchen. I also had a really good feeling that this soup would be amazing and delicious. I was right.

So, I doubled up the recipe and these are the amounts if you want to make a metric-shit ton of soup. 7 cups of cubed, peeled potatos (I used Russets); 1 finely chopped onion; 2 cups diced celery and 2 cups cooked ham. See how pretty this is? I should totally have my own show. Let someone know at Food Network please.

2 teaspoons salt, 2 tbls chicken bouillion granules and 2 tbls white ground pepper (it was a touch spicy, so if you're sensitive, might want to back that off).

Throw the ham, potatoes, celery and onion in a pot with 6 1/2 cups water. Let boil. Turn down to med-high heat until potatoes are tender.

On the side, 2 cups milk, 10 tbls butter (yeah, holy shit right?), 10 tbls all-purpose flour.

Over low heat, melt the butter. After it's fully melted, add the flour about a quarter at a time, whisking with a fork to avoid lumpiness. Then add in the milk a little at a time until blended and smooth. Let heat, stirring constantly until the mixture starts to thicken (about 5-6 min). I didn't do a picture of any of those steps because I only have two hands and they were busy stirring and adding. So shut up.

Here's the thickened mixture.

Slowly add to soup, stirring. Turn down to medium heat, serve after warmed through.

It was freakin' amazing. Definately in my top 5 of soups. I will make this again! Also, if my stomach could hold anymore liquid, I would have continued eating. The condensed version is below (and the normal amounts, since this made a metric shit-ton of soup-as I said earlier).

For the cool kids, here's a couple of recipes from my personal library. They are awesome and amazing and delicous. These are from a book called Main Course Soups and there's a little of my own adaptions after making these so many times (in italics).

Chicken Enchilada Soup
2 tbls corn oil
6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes with their juice
2 tbls chili powder
1/4 tea ground cumin
6 cups chicken stock
1 (8oz) can red enchilada sauce
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Pico de Gallo
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tbls peanut oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 tbls finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbls lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a 4-1/2 quart Dutch oven, heat the corn oil over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the tortillas, reduce the heat to medium and cook until they are golden brown. Add the onion, garlic and jalapenos. Cook until the onion is soft, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook for 10 min.
Stir in the chicken stock and enchilada sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 min. Stir in the chicken, cilantro, and avocado. Cook for 2 min., or until just heated.
To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with pico de gallo and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Serve with tortilla chips on the side. (Note: I usually use less cayenne pepper and cilantro and don't mix the tortilla strips in until I serve the soup. Usually use mozzarella cheese instead of Monterey Jack. I usually just microwave a package of boneless chicken breasts for the chicken, then throw it into the refrigerator while cooking the rest of the soup. It’s easy to shred and toss in. Also, I tend to use less cilantro, but that's a taste preference.)

Pico de Gallo
In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Let sit at room temp for 1 hour before using to allow the flavors to mellow (Note: Not entirely necessary to let sit for so long. It also states that you must not process these in a food processor because it makes the pico too watery, I only cut the tomatoes by hand and it’s been fine. If you want to, you can make it a day ahead if you really want the flavors of the pico to blend nicely). Refrigerate unused portion for up to 5 days.

Roasted Garlic Soup with Green Grapes
(Don’t let the number of garlic cloves in this delicious soup alarm you. When garlic is roasted, it develops a mellow, almost nut-like taste. The sweet green grapes offer an interesting taste and textural contrast. This marriage of soup and bread is sometimes called a panade, although traditionally, a panade utilizes bread crumbs. Author’s note).

5 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled (about 60 cloves)
2 onions, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tbls butter melted
1/2 tea salt
1/2 tea black pepper
1 tbls flour
8 cups chicken stock
8 slices French bread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (Note: I usually substitute mozzarella cheese here)
1 cup seedless green grapes, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large, oven-proof baking dish, toss the garlic and onions with the olive oil and melted butter. Sprinkle this mixture with salt, pepper and flour.
Cover the baking dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until garlic is soft.
In a 4-1/2 quart Dutch oven, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Transfer the roasted garlic, onions and oil and butter to a food processor and puree until smooth (Note: I never puree the garlic mixture, just toss it into the chicken stock, after smushing it with a fork). Add this mixture to the stock and blend thoroughly. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.
Divide the French bread among 8 serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the bread and let sit for 1 min to allow the bread to absorb some of the flavors of the soup. Sprinkle each bowl with grated Gruyere (or mozzarella, haha) cheese and green grapes. Serve at once. (Note: I usually omit the bread and just set it there for people to choose whether they want it in there or not.)

Ham and Potato Soup
3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup diced cooked ham
3 1/4 cups water
2 tbls chicken bouillon granules
1/2 tea salt or to taste
1 tea ground white or black pepper or to taste
5 tbls butter
5 tbls all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

1. Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over med heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.
2. In a separate saucepan, melt butter over med-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 min. Slowly stir in milk. Continue stirring over med-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 min.
3. Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.



Monday, December 22, 2008

We Play Wii

So, last Friday, some of my co-workers and myself were at the bar having a little Christmas gift exchange and drinking a handful of beers (we all had to drive and since we're nothing if not law-abiding, responsible citizens, we didn't get lit up). As we were sitting there, we decided there would likely be nothing better in life but to come over and play some Wii. Shana (or as her Mii name-SHAY) had never played so it was monumental for her. Apparently so monumental, she went out this weekend and bought one. Heh.

Shayyyyy (you have to say this in a slightly southern, whiney voice and you have what we were doing to her all night) is bowling here. We have to completely move everything around to play but it's so worth it.

Um...not sure which game she's playing here, but we'll pretend it's golf. Might actually have been. Toby got whacked really, really hard in the mouth by me once, but he must have trusted SHAYYYY a lot. He's hovering in a dangerous spot.

This is what Wii makes you do. Giggle at others and find joy in them. If the world played Wii together, there would be no more war. Okay, that might be a bit much, but it is fun.

This is boxing. It's really hard. SHAYYYY is sweating here. It's surprising how very much effort it takes to kick that bitches ass.

Nikki brought Remy because she didn't want the dog to be sad and lonely. As you can see, she is loving the picture taking. I think Remy is a picture whore.

Oh my god. This is terrifying. Nikki looks pretty scary here. Maybe she was tired of me taking pictures? Nahhhhh.

Paul and Nikki are practically cuddling. Hilarious! Paul was a good sport and let the girls play while he just yelled out "helpful hints" from the sidelines.

Again, they are SOOO CUTE together!

Here's he's waiting for the right moment to tell us how bad we suck and then give us pointers. Boys.

Nikki's on the boxing here! She was also tired afterwards. It really does kick your ass a bit.

I am the best picture taker EVER. This is a sweet picture of the Wii opponent all blurry cuz Nikki is kicking it's penis-nosed ASS.

Golf or bowling? Does it really matter? I didn't think so.

Wow. I think I should be concerned that these two spent so much time on the couch together. Well, not really since in reality, we were playing musical chairs since there was only enough for whoever wasn't playing. We continually were moving around. CJ sat next to Paul for a while until he tried to make her pee herself by tickling her.

Again, I am amazed at how awesome my camera is. CJ boxing and kicking penis-nose's ass.

The dogs are confused by the Wii. The people stand and cheer and jump at the TV and yet they do not want to play. You can see why there's this "hang-dog" (heh) experessions on their faces.

I'm guessing golf here. CJ really plays for-reals golf so I'm sure she was super dissapointed that SHE GOT HER ASS HANDED TO HER. I'm so competitive.

Sorry about the schizophrenic ordering. You try uploading a million pictures and see if they are all "perfect". Stupid critical people you.

See, Wii makes you smile. CJ is smiling here. That means Wii brings joy.

This would be my legs and Brody and Remy trying to get some desperate attention. The Wii brings people joy, but makes dogs sad.

As the night wore on, you notice who can't hang with the big kids. CJ was out like a light. Shana, Nikki and I were going strong. Paul was long in bed. Pussies.

And Remy just can't hang either.


How am I so lucky?

Okay, so yes, I cooked a ham, mashed potatoes, corn and green bean casserole. But still, the fact that I have such good friends that are willing to actually wrap my Christmas presents for me, well...I am a lucky woman.

Course, CJ was really, really overwhelmed with joy that Max jumped on her and got comfy. Of course, comfy for Max is looking as though the very flames of hell are jumping from his eyes. CJ looks ecstatic.

Here's Nikki wrapping up presents. Thank you. Bah Humbug and all that, but they are rock stars.

They even wrapped the hard stuff. Which is sweet. Because that means I don't have to. And that makes Christmas soooo much better. So, in case you weren't keeping track, just make ham and people will wrap presents for you. Seems fair. All is right with the world tonight. Sigh.